Value Stream Map

Is a Process Map the same as a Value Stream Map?

One question that I hear very often is what is, the difference between a value stream map and a process flow?  Are they the same?  It is easy to be confused, both are maps of the process, right?  Let’s establish what each map is:


Which one we should use depends on what we want to accomplish, do we want to work with a specific process or we want to visualize more than just the single-process level, see the flow?  Do not rush to complete either one of them, they deserve time; after all the continuous improvement process depends on how we define the baseline of the process or flow and the appropriate identification of the problems.  The more you use them, the easier will be to identify which one is right for each occasion.





Every step of the journey we need to have metrics to measure the effect of kaizen on our processes.  After every value stream map event we come out with the list of kaizen we need to close the gap between current and future state.  After our first couple of events things did not go as planned.  After checking the goals we had for those events and brainstorm with the group about possible reasons for doubtful results on our kaizen events we concluded that the problem was the way we set up our goals.

SMART is an acronym giving criteria to guides in the setting of objectives.  Goals needs to be:

Specific: An specific goal needs to answer what are the requirements, who is responsible, what to do, when and where.

Measurable:  How much? How many? Specify the units.

Attainable: Goals needs to be challenging but attainable.

Realistic:  Again, keep your feet on the ground.  We would like to shoot for the moon but can we really reach it?

Timely:  Set a time frame.

Following these guides we ensure that we define our objectives and goals clearly so that no open interpretations affects the results.  We learn the lesson, now we are SMART!


Lean Tools, The Beginning

Be careful!

Not everything that shines is gold, and not everybody that claims being a Lean consultant is.  One day, a group from our corporate office came to visit accompanied with a Lean Manufacturing consultant that they hire.  Their experienced consultant came to see our operations and my boss asked me to create a short presentation of our lean journey.

I think that the best presentation ever is the one our employees will do while walking the gemba, but my boss still thinks is good to have power point presentations before going to see.  The day and time indicated I present the highlights of our journey.  I showed how we design our construction blocks to build our Lean Operations.  I showed the VSM we created with our door to door operations, I highlighted the kaizen bursts we identified.  Later I talked about our trainings, Lean Introduction, 5S, POUS, Visual Management, TPM, Kanban and others.  Then I showed examples of how we applied these tools at different areas from receiving to packaging, including the maintenance shops, laboratory, materials warehouse and the chemicals room.  Finally I presented a four panels slide with the PDCA of all the kaizen we “finished” or have in progress.

Our corporate visitors were impressed by all the progress showed, especially in terms of dollars and cents but the lean expert was utterly quiet.  He did not say too much at the end of the meeting either.  At the end of the day, my boss told me that after I left the consultant was saying that he doesn’t believe in VSM and much less on TPM, SMED, 5S trainings or any kind of visual management.  The only thing he recommended to continue working with was kanbans through the whole plant, this will create flow; he said.

I don’t have a lot of experience with Lean, but my humble experience has been enough to know that working with the basic tools of lean helps to prepare the plant for the stabilization, standardization and quick change-over we need to create the flow needed for supply to our customers what they need when they need at the expected quality or better.

Be careful, there are a lot of people out there trying to grab a bunch of money from you saying that they are lean experts.  They come, see, talk, talk and talk about what you should do without saying how to do it and left with their pockets full of money leaving you worst than before.

Lean Tools, Value Stream Map

Value Stream Map

I remember the first time I saw a Value Stream Map, I was completely amazed by how simple and at the same time complete that tool was.  As an industrial engineer I was very used to using flow diagrams and layout drawings but never occurred to me to put both concepts together (although on a different way to the traditional one) to map the process.

John Shook and Mike Rother on their book “Learning to See“, defined Value Stream as: all the actions currently required to bring a product through the main flows essential to every product.  Could be the production flow from raw material into the arms of the customer or the design flow from concept to launch.

The main purpose of this mapping process, as the name suggest is to identify the value of every step.  Through the use of this tool we classify every activity as value added or non-value added, it allows you to see the waste and plan to eliminate it.  Also it helps to identify kaizen opportunities along the whole material and information flow.  With the value stream map analysis we see the whole process flow which is great to connect all improvement initiatives.  Normally we tried to improve single process level, but with the value stream map we can connect the dots and see how each level is affected by the previous one or affects the next one.

We always start drawing the current state and then we visualize how the ideal process would be and create this future state value stream map.  How we close the gap between current and future processes is the funny part.  This is where all the different lean manufacturing basic tools comes to our rescue: 5S, visual management, standardize work, Kaizen, brainstorming, 5 Why’s, JIT, kanban, TPM, OEE, PDCA, root cause analysis and others.

In my opinion, we should start the Lean journey creating the value stream map, both current and future state and then draw your road map, how you plan to go from A to B.  Creating a new map with the new current state is always satisfying because that only means that you take another step on your lean journey.  Enjoy the ride!